Disclaimer: jake 2.0 and all related elements, characters and indicia © Roundtable Entertainment and Viacom Productions, Inc., 2003. All Rights Reserved. All characters and situations-save those created by the authors for use solely on this website-are copyright Roundtable Entertainment and Viacom Productions, Inc.
Author's Note: Midterms and finals have taken over my life and free time... *sigh*. As always, thanks to J Solt for reading my drafts and all those who've read and reviewed my previous stories.
Two Sides of the Same Coin
He stared up at the ceiling, blinking only when his eyes felt too dry. These past few days had been awkward at work with Diane and he couldn't figure out the reason. One minute, everything would seem normal and relaxed... But the next minute, especially when he had asked her a couple of times if she wanted to go out for a fancy dinner instead of just hanging out at his place, she'd get this strange look in her eyes and start stuttering about how she had reports to write or even change the subject entirely.
Jake rolled onto his side and shifted his gaze to the alarm clock. Reflecting back a week ago to the discussion he had had with his friend Kevin that started this whole thing, doubt suddenly clutched at his gut. Maybe Kevin was wrong; maybe he, himself, had been wrong this whole time. Jake frowned, his vision still fixed on the blur of red numbers in front of him. He couldn't come up with another explanation for Diane's recent behavior other than that she must have picked up on his entertaining the idea of them possibly being more than friends.
"Idiot," he muttered. Obviously, he had been reading her signals wrong just like every other girl he's known. There was the wedding when she came to be his date... but that could've been Diane being her usual nice self and then there was something odd about how she knew immediately what was wrong with the nanites... And what about Christmas? They both downed a bottle of wine each; it could easily have been the alcohol talking that night. Although, deep down, he wanted to believe that was really her saying those things as they danced; it shocked Jake to the core at how much he really wanted to believe that.
Pushing the thought far away, he rubbed his eyes with the heel of his hand. "Why do I keep getting myself into these things?" he asked out loud but was only answered with silence. "Well I guess that's it then," he sighed, deciding his friendship with Diane was worth way too much to risk over something she clearly didn't want.
Focusing back on the clock, his eyes widened as he read the time. "Oh crap!" he yelled practically falling out of bed.
Jake rushed out of the apartment building, almost tripping down the steps as he haphazardly slipped an arm through the sleeve of his jacket. Fumbling with the car keys, he unlocked the door and yanked on the handle. Not paying attention, though, he ended up pulling the chrome object right off the car.
"Aw, damn..." Jake stared at the handle in his hand and started cursing under his breath. Glancing down at his watch, he hurried over to the passenger side and scrambled into the vehicle. Jake then tried turning the ignition with a fury only to be rewarded with a series of sputtering coughs from the engine. "Oh no. No. Not now," he moaned banging his forehead on the wheel when he suddenly heard the blast of a car horn beside him.
"Hi! Can you help me?" he heard a voice call from a car that had pulled up next to his.
Rolling down the window, he started aggravated, "Sorry, I would but I'm running really la-- oh."
Sitting in a red sports coupe, an attractive young woman leaned out of her car window and was smiling sweetly at him. With a small toss of her head, Jake's eyes followed the ends of her brunette hair graze the shoulders of her low-cut blouse.
"I was wondering if you could tell me what road to take to get to Alexandria," she explained apologetically, "but if you're in a hurry--"
"Well," he said looking at his watch again and grinned back at her. "Nah, it's okay. I'm already half an hour late anyways. Um..." he shuffled through the glove compartment and pulled out a map. Getting out, he went over to her and showed which roads to take.
"I see, thanks," acknowledged the female driver as Jake turned to throw the map back into the car. With his back to her, he didn't notice the young woman's gaze drift slowly up and down his form. "So, do you wanna ride?" she asked in a sultry pitch.
Jake spun around and gulped, "E-excuse me?"
"Do you wanna ride with me. To wherever you're going?" she repeated with an eyebrow raised. "It looked like your car wouldn't start and you said you were late for what I'm guessing is work."
"Oh," he exhaled, embarrassed at what he could've sworn had been the way she had said it. "Work. Yeah. But where I'm going would be in the opposite direction of where you're heading and I don't want to cause trouble--"
"Wouldn't be any trouble at all. It'd be my pleasure."
Jake swallowed again, "T-that'd be great."
"Diane, the results are back," Fran announced placing the documents on the counter. "Hey. Hellooo?" She observed her boss, amused, "Maybe it would taste better if you tried adding sugar instead of just looking at it for an hour."
Diane kept staring absently down at the coffee in front of her not showing any sign of hearing what had been said. Fran gently nudged Diane causing her to yelp in surprise, "Wh-when did you come in?"
She folded her arms, concerned, "I've been here for two hours. Are you okay? You've been acting weird lately."
"Me? Oh yeah, I'm-I'm fine. Just haven't been getting enough sleep is all."
"I see..." Fran said agreeing although her tone indicated she plainly didn't.
Diane squirmed under her assistant's probing look and started fidgeting with the files she had brought her, "So is, um, Jake in yet?"
"Nope. Still a no show."
Her face grew worried. "Maybe I should call him again. I mean, I tried his apartment and all I got was the machine, and then I tried his cell phone a couple times but I couldn't get through either," she grabbed the JMD next to the coffee, shaking her head. "Not to mention h-his vitals have been rising rapidly over the last few minutes--"
"I'm sure he's fine, Diane," she assured. "It's only been an hour. He's probably stuck in traffic or something; that and being late for work is enough to get anybody's adrenalines running."
"Right," Diane rubbed her forehead. "You're right. I'm just-- overreacting again."
Fran gave her a sympathetic smile and gestured towards the door, "Come on. Lou just called a general meeting."
Nodding, Diane took one last evaluation of the information on the JMD before stuffing it into her coat and reluctantly following Fran out of the lab.
Jake flipped open his cell phone about to call into work when he realized he had forgotten to recharge the batteries. Sighing, his sight wandered over to the car's speedometer which almost caused him to choke.
"So what's your name?" she inquired as she deftly maneuvered through traffic while still maintaining a high speed.
He gripped the armrest as the driver of the SUV they just cut off gave them the middle finger, "J-Jake."
She turned her whole head towards him and held out her hand, "Well 'J-Jake', my name's Jess."
Shaking her offered hand, Jake pointed forward alarmed, "Uh, the road."
Jess smirked and casually returned her attention back to driving, "What's your job?"
"Oh. I-I work for the NSA."
"Really? Are you an agent?"
"Me? An agent? You're kidding. The NSA wou-wouldn't make someone like me an agent," Jake attempted to chuckle off the idea. "It'd probably be considered a national disaster. Nope, I'm just your regular tech support guy. You know, saving undefragmented disk drives in distress, that sort of thing."
She laughed and glanced over at him approvingly, "Funny and adorable. I like that."
"Thanks," he beamed, astonished that a girl actually saw him in that light. "Take a right up here. You can drop me off near that building; I'll just walk from there."
They pulled up into a parking lot and stopped near a sign that read: National Cryptologic Museum.
"Thanks for the ride," Jake said trying to open the door but failing.
Jess unbuckled her seatbelt, "Sorry, that door always sticks." Leaning over Jake, she brushed against his chest as she pulled the door handle. "There's a little trick to it," she explained looking up at Jake's slightly panicked expression. "First you gotta go up..." Jess began, "and then down..." The door popped open. "And there you go," she grinned innocently.
"Ah," Jake smiled clearing his throat and slipped out of the car. "So, um..."
She reached out and caught his arm. Pushing up his sleeve, she took a tube of lipstick that sat on the dashboard and started writing a series of digits, "Think I could have yours as well?"
"S-sure," taking the lipstick she offered. "Oh...y-you mean here?" he stuttered looking at the forearm Jess held out. She nodded as he gulped and scribbled his phone number.
Giving him a last look-over, she moved back behind the wheel, "I'll see you later then."
"See ya," Jake answered dumbly watching the taillights of the red car speed away. Raising his forearm in front of his face he mumbled confused, "What just happened here?"
"So, where were you this morning?" Diane questioned Jake while Fran pushed the button inside the elevator.
He watched the numbers light up above the metal doors. "Huh?" facing her with a lopsided grin.
She frowned. "You weren't answering your phone. I swear Lou was going to skin you alive for coming into Sat Ops late and being in a good mood. What's going on?"
He stared down at his shoes continuing to smile at himself, "Ah, nothing. My car wouldn't start."
"Oh, of course. I always jump for joy whenever that happens to me," Diane's frown deepened as the elevator opened and the three walked down the hall into the lab. "Seriously, that would make you happy... why?"
"I'm... I'm just really glad there are nice people in this world, you know what I mean?" he said brightly, unbuttoning his shirt.
"Uh, not in this case. No."
Fran moved into the next room but made sure she was still in hearing distance.
"What I mean is there was this person I helped give directions to and they offered to drive me to work. I thought that was really nice of them."
"Oh!" she said lightening her tone and smiled. "Yeah, that was nice of them to do that." Beginning to attach electrodes to his back Diane paused when she caught a glance of something red on his arm, "What's that?"
"What's what?" he said looking down and then blushed. "Oh, that. That's just a number. You know, didn't have pen handy so..."
"So, you decided to use lipstick that you happened to have on you instead?" she joked with an eyebrow raised.
Jake laughed, "Well she didn't have a pen on her either."
Both Diane's eyebrows went up this time, "She?"
He nodded getting onto the treadmill. "Yeah, the person who drove me to work. She seemed nice. Really nice."
"Nice," she repeated her smile dissolving. "Yeah."
"I dunno Jake," She scratched the back of her head, feigning indifference. "I mean, I-I would just watch out if I were you."
"Watch out for what?"
"Well, you know..." Diane shrugged. "I had that incident with Steve and it's not like you've had the best track record with girls either..."
Jake rolled his eyes as he started to run, "Aw, come on Diane."
"I'm serious," she asserted. "Doesn't this sound a little too similar to your thing with Theresa? I mean you've got this girl, whom I'm assuming must be pretty, basically throwing herself at you--"
"This is not like Theresa," he defended weakly, "and s-she wasn't throwing herself at me."
"I see," she stated sarcastically gesturing wildly. "So it's completely normal for a woman to invite a complete stranger into her car, drive him wherever he wants to go and then scribble all over his arm with her make-up--"
"It didn't happen like that," Jake insisted, noting that she was getting into one of her weird moods again. He started panting as the speed picked up. "She was... just being... accommodating."
"Right," Diane affably said, calming down. She stalked over to the other room and picked up her clipboard beside Fran. "Accommodating in a 'here's my body on a plate' sorta way," she muttered under her breath.
Fran's jaw dropped in shock. Muffling a snicker, she ducked her head and pretended to work.
"What?" Jake hollered. Despite his enhanced hearing, he wasn't able to decipher exactly what Diane had said with his thoughts on Jess and the blood pumping in his ears. Getting off the treadmill, he went to the doorway. "Did you say something?"
Diane spun around. "Yeah. Uh, do you need me to drive you home tonight?"
"Thanks. That'd be great."
"No problem," she answered watching him walk back to the exercise machine. "Hey, can you take over for a sec?" handing the clipboard to Fran.
"Sure." She said looking at it confused. "Why?"
"I need some air," Diane exhaled moving out into the hallway, "...or maybe a new tube of lipstick," she mockingly added.
Jake sank comfortably into the passenger seat of Diane's beat-up Volvo as the driver ahead of them gave her a courtesy wave for letting him cut in. Looking out into the dark night, Jake felt his eyelids droop and the smoothness of the ride lulling him to sleep.
"You gonna call her?" he heard Diane's voice say quietly.
He shifted his head on the headrest so he could face her, "Maybe. I dunno," he yawned. Taking off his coat and using it as a pillow, he closed his eyes. "I think you're right Diane. Women don't take to me unless they're protecting a family fortune or need to find where their C: drive is."
She cringed regretting her words, "I-I'm sorry for what I said today. It was uncalled for."
"But it's the truth," he mumbled.
"No. No, it's not," Diane gripped the wheel. "Jake, you're a great guy. I mean you're caring and-and you're funny..." she took a deep breath. "You know, you just-- maybe you should just stop looking so hard and try looking at what's in front of you... Im... I'm in front of you..."
Biting her lip, she kept her eyes glued to the road waiting for a reaction. The seconds dragged on like hours before Diane gathered the courage to look over at him. Slumped towards her, Jake's mouth was slightly ajar with soft snores emanating from it.
Her shoulders drooped. "'Go for this one, Diane,'" she said mimicking her friend Karyn's advice. Sighing, she thought back to their Valentine's Day conversation. Diane had to admit that her old roommate was right about a lot of stuff. Stuff that she more than wished hadn't been brought to her attention. It disturbed her so much that she found herself being on edge all week... Not to mention Jake's out-of-nowhere invitations to fancy dinners didn't help the situation either. That had caught her completely unawares considering she had decided that week to follow her friend's advice. So, when he had made those suggestions, she clammed up out of shock and automatically went into Diane Defense mode.
Coasting to a stop in front of Jake's apartment building she cut off the engine and turned towards him. "Jake," she said gently. When he didn't wake up, she reached out and brushed his hair away from his forehead, "Jake."
"Mmm?" he stirred.
"We're home," she murmured looking down at him. Snatching her hand away, she shook her head startled. "I-I mean you're home. You're home 'cause this is you're building and y-you live here and-- um "
He opened the door with his eyes barely open, "Mm, thanks for the ride."
"Anytime. And Jake--" she called out before he shut the door.
She opened her mouth about to say something but then looked down and started the car, "You have a good night."
Jake smiled sleepily, "You too." He climbed the front steps as the puttering noise of the box shaped car faded into the distance. In his apartment, he collapsed onto the couch and was gratefully shutting his eyes when his phone rang. Grunting, he picked it up.
"Jake? It's Jess. From this morning?"
His eyes popped open, "Ah yeah! Hey, how are you?"
"I'm fine. I've been thinking a lot about you."
He heard her teasing laugh come from her end of the phone line, "Yeah! I was wondering if you'd like to go out for dinner tomorrow. Unless you're busy with something else--"
"Oh no! No, I-I'm free," Jake answered ecstatic.
"Great. So I'll drop by your place, say, six-ish?"
"That sounds good."
"Good. Can't wait to see you." Jess's voice lowered flirtatiously, "You have a good night."
Jake flushed although something tugged at the back of his mind, "You too."
The line went dead as he leaned back into the cushions trying to grasp what his befuddled mind was trying to tell him. Giving up, he shut his eyes and drifted into sleep.
Diane stuffed under her arm Jake's jacket that he had forgotten in the car while searching for her apartment keys. Preoccupied, she didn't hear footsteps coming up behind her.
"Hey Diane," a voice intoned nonchalantly.
She jumped and turned to see a female a couple years younger watching her humorlessly. "What are you doing here?" Diane gasped taken aback.
"Is that anyway to greet me?"
She pushed up her glasses rubbing her eyes in case she was imagining things.
The other woman motioned to the door with her bag, "Can we at least go inside?"
Nodding, Diane unlocked her apartment and stood aside as the woman moved past her, dropped her bags in the middle of the room, and lounged at ease in a chair.
"How have you been?" Diane asked slowly pushing the door closed with her back leaning against it.
"As well as you can be bartending in New York City," she bitterly answered.
"You've been in New York all this time and you never called?"
"Didn't think anyone would care."
Diane sputtered appalled, "We-We were all worried about you! I mean three years..." she started towards the phone, "I should call Mom and Dad."
Her sister grabbed the phone before she could reach it, "No! Don't!"
"What? Why not?"
"Listen," she pleaded. "I just need a place to stay for a while, okay? I'm really low on money and I can barely afford a motel room for a few weeks."
Diane looked at her with an agonized expression. "You can't keep running. I mean, I helped you out that once but I-I can't keep doing that. Mom and Dad need to know you're okay."
"Oh, so they can lecture me on how they were right about not running off with that guy?" She folded her arms disgusted. "I'd bet you'd love to hear that discussion."
"What?" Diane started growing angry. "What's that supposed to mean?"
"It means you were always their favorite. 'Oh why can't you be more like your sister' or 'Diane would have done this instead'--"
"That's ridiculous! You were the one they always went easy on. Y-You were the popular one in high school, you were able to get away with anything--"
She got up from the couch and picked up her bags. "You know, this is ridiculous! I come here just to ask if I can stay a couple of nights and I get a talking to by Miss I've-Got-Everything-I-Want-In-Life."
"I'm not trying to give you a talking to and I sure don't have everything I want."
"Yeah," she sneered. "Sure."
Diane's voice quivered, "Jessica, you're being--" her sister gave her a warning look. "We just want you to come back. Everyone at home misses you."
"Well I'm not missing them yet," she answered coldly. "Anyways, forget I came here."
"Listen, if you still want to stay--"
"No forget it," she motioned for Diane to move. "I don't think either of us could stand it."
Opening the door reluctantly, she watched her younger sister storm out. Diane then took off her glasses and pressed her fingertips on the moisture that started to fill her vision.
A loud knock made Jake bolt up from his relaxing position on the couch. Grumbling, he glanced at the time and said answering the door, "It's one in the morn-- Jess?"
She looked up, distraught, "I'm sorry but I didn't know who else to go to."
Jake watched her eyes start to tear up. Opening the door wider, he gestured her to come in.
"My whole life is just--" Jess sniffled as she allowed him to usher her to the couch. "I came to D.C. because I'm getting over a rough part of my life and I thought I could count on my sister for help and support..." she took the tissue Jake handed her, "but I guess I was wrong. I-I don't know what to do now. I have no one to turn to, no place to stay... "
"Y-You could stay here," Jake offered unsure.
She wiped the tears from her cheeks, shocked. "Really?"
"Yeah... Yeah, why not," declared Jake finally accepting the idea. Going back into the hallway, he brought her bags into his bedroom. "I usually sleep on the couch anyways so I don't see any problem."
Jess went to take a peek at the bed and then gave him a hug, "I don't know how to repay you."
"Oh," waving his hand dismissively, "there's no need to repay me."
"Hmm, I'll think of something," she said leaning back and staring at him contemplatively. Letting him go, she grinned mischievously, "Well thanks again. Good night."
Jake felt his throat go dry as she turned her attention to unpacking her bags, "Good night."
The unfamiliar sound of rushing water at 6 AM interrupted Jake's drowsy state of unconsciousness. Instead of the smell of liverwurst wafting from the deli below that he was used to every morning, the steamy scent of jasmine assailed his nostrils. It reminded him of something... someone... Trying to sort out the previous night's events, the bathroom door opened with Jess coming out clad only in a towel.
"Good morning!" she piped cheerfully. Jess went to sit on the arm of the couch, her bare leg inches away from his face. "Sleep well?"
"Uh," startled, he moved to a sitting position and shifted an inch away. "Yeah, yeah I did."
"Are we still on for dinner tonight?"
"Great! You need a ride to work today?"
He tried to comb down his hair that was sticking up, "Would you mind?"
"'Course not," Jess smiled. "You look adorable like that."
"All bed-heady and crumpled. I'd love it if I could wake up next to a guy that looked like that." Grinning at his embarrassed expression, she walked to the kitchen, "I'm gonna make some coffee, you want some?"
"Yeah coffee. Coffee's good," Jake cleared his throat, rising to get the newspaper. Opening the door, he looked up to find Diane standing in front of him with her hand poised in the air about to knock.
"Hi," he greeted.
"What are you doing here?"
"You, uh, forgot this last night." Diane replied handing over his jacket.
Jake took it surprised, "Thanks."
"So," she began with a sheepish smile, "I know its kinda earlier than when you usually head out for work, but I figured you might need a ride again because of your car and all..." Diane nervously tucked a stray curl behind her ear, "a-and theres something Ive been meaning to talk to you about--"
"Hey Jake, do you have an extra towel?" Jess called out coming up behind him.
The two women locked eyes and stared at each other over Jake's shoulder, their mouths slightly agape. Both paralyzed with surprise, Jess was the first to recover. Folding her arms, a warm smile curled up on Jess's face that didn't quite echo in her eyes as she continued to stare at Diane. "Hey, big sis. How are you doin'?" she drawled.
Jake drummed his fingers on the surface of his mug as an awkward silence settled in the room. To his left, he saw Jess nonchalantly taking a sip from her cup and then giving him a jovial wink when she noticed he was watching her. Jake grinned bashfully and turned to the right where he viewed Diane who had been blowing away the steam at the surface of her cup for the last five minutes. He tried giving her a friendly smile but then frowned when she didnt notice and continued to stare absently at her coffee. Jake shifted uncomfortably when he suddenly realized how small his couch actually was with all three of them crammed next to each other.
"So," Jess energetically began, "howd you guys meet?"
"Uh, well... um." Jake covertly nudged Diane who proceeded to spill a little of her beverage on the floor.
Snapping out of her shocked state, Diane stammered, "What? Oh, um, well you know the computers in the lab are always crashing and so, uh, J-Jake came in one day while I was there and fixed them and, um, we just started talking. Noth-nothing unusual."
Jess touched his shoulder affectionately. "Aw, how cute of you! Always saving the day, arent you Jake?"
"Well, you know, I try." Jake inclined his chin proudly not catching the roll of Dianes eyes.
Another long moment of silence passed before Jake attempted to revive the situation.
"So..." Jake nodded good-naturedly while trying to think up of a conversation starter. "You guys... have the same... parents. Uh..." He squirmed, suddenly feeling uncomfortable being sandwiched between the two sisters' stares.
"That is the typical definition of 'sisters'," Diane informed gently.
Jake scowled lamely, "Yeah... I guess that does make sense..."
"Mm-hmm. Anyways," Jess said taking command, "I guess my big sis here didn't mention me at all, did she Jake?" Leaning forward to look at Diane, she waggled a finger in a tsk-tsk motion, "I thought Mom always told us to share?"
"Well actually, she did mention you." He remembered back to Christmas, oblivious to the sparks of tension that were currently flying past him. "The pool party incident, right? Unless there's another sister I haven't met."
"No. Oh no," Diane hastily informed Jake. She shook her head as she imagined having another sister with Jess's personality.
"Yeah. It's just us two. I think me alone is almost too much for you to handle," Jess insinuated but not making it clear if the comment was meant for her sister or Jake. "Pool party... oh yeah, Diane's graduation! Hmm, that was a great day, wasn't it Diane?"
"Very," she replied in a monotonous tone.
Jess smiled. "Yeah, my friends made her a card and I bought her a new outfit to replace the one she wore that day because it was embarrassing to see her wearing that so not in style stuff--"
"It was you!" Diane gasped, "You were the one who stole my things!"
"I just took your clothes while you were in the shower. I figured that would keep you from leaving before I came back with the new outfit. I didn't think you'd actually leave for the ceremony wearing... well, almost nothing. As for your other stuff, I might've forgotten to lock the locker up again." Jess shrugged, "Besides I thought you took pretty short showers so I never imagined theft would be a problem in the first place. Of course, they might've just seemed short because I take really long showers, right Jake?" She placed a hand on his knee, "By the way, I'm sorry if I took all the hot water this morning... although, maybe you might not need a lot of it after all."
Jake gave a shaky laugh before setting his cup down. "Showers. Speaking of showers, I guess I should go take one. Uh," He pushed away the mental images Jess was trying to project and pointed both thumbs over his shoulder. "Yeah, showers are good. I... I'll just go do that." Rising, Jake attempted to cross in front of Jess but tripped on her outstretched leg. Bracing his hands on the couch, he stopped himself from completely falling on top of her. "Sorry. Really sorry," he apologized in horror.
"Don't worry about it," Jess answered, letting the smoldering timbre of her voice resonate throughout the room.
Jake hastily continued towards the bathroom repeating inaudibly, "Oh, yeah. Showers are good."
It wasn't until the loud rushing noise of water from behind the closed door that the pause in conversation since Jake's departure was ended.
"What do you think you're doing, Jessica?" Diane asked sharply.
Jess leaned back with a malicious grin playing on her lips, "Well, I'm sitting here on the couch having coffee--"
"Well so am I," Jess sighed and put down her mug. "I helped out Jake yesterday and like the considerate guy he is, he's letting me stay over a few nights." She gave her sister a sly glance. "And who knows, maybe we'll get to know each other a little better."
This whole week was starting to grate on Diane's nerves and finding her younger sister in Jake's apartment with only a towel on certainly wasn't helping the situation. "If you do anything to hurt his feelings--"
"Could you please clarify the phrase 'do anything'?" Jess struck an overdramatic pose with her finger tapping her forehead as if completely puzzled. Knowing she was getting under the other woman's skin only made her grin wider. "Oh c'mon Diane, it's not like I haven't stolen one of you're boyfriends before... And look, you're not even involved with Jake so I don't see why you're getting all worked up."
"Because Jake's my best friend and I don't want to see him-- just don't play any of your little games with him or I swear I'll--" Diane set her own mug down, noticing that she was shaking from what she assumed was the caffeine.
Jess's eyebrows lifted, stunned. Her shy and passive sister had basically threatened her; a fierce action she had never seen Diane insinuate to anyone before. She wasn't kidding when she said she had stolen one of her sister's boyfriends in the past and yet when that had happened Diane had just backed down, so Jess wondered why all of a sudden this was different. And not willing to admit it, she actually felt a little proud that her older sister was finally showing some backbone.
"Hey, I genuinely like Jake," Jess defended matter-of-factly. "He's different than the kinds of guys I've been with. And besides, I don't see anyone else interested."
"Who says I'm not int--" Diane stopped realizing what she was about to say. With a weak laugh, she tried to change the subject, "Wow, really strong coffee. Just can't seem to finish any sentences this morning. Is-Is this decaf, 'cause y'know I just get really wired when it's not decaf and I just start saying stuff that I absolutely don't mean. And it tastes very sugary and-and--"
Rolling her eyes Jess interrupted the babbling, "Don't bother with spin control Diane," she commented knowingly. "If you're jealous just admit it."
"I-I am not jealous."
"Then maybe you're just scared that you'll lose to your sister again when it comes to guys."
"Now that's just plain wrong. And there is not going to be some competition between us; I refuse to do something as silly as that."
The two turned to glance over the back of the couch when they heard Jake come out of the bathroom drying off his hair.
"Your loss," Diane heard Jess say in a low pitch only meant for her to hear. Nonetheless, Jake was still able to pick up the short phrase.
Walking up to the couch, he asked, "Someone lose something?"
Jess turned to him in amazement while Diane got up and started towards the door, not wanting to deal with any more of her sister's remarks.
"Where you going?" Jake called after Diane.
"Work, remember?" she said curtly. "So are you coming?"
Before he could answer, Jess happily chimed in, "Actually, I offered to drive Jake to work today."
"Oh, really?" Diane tried to sound pleasant, which fooled no one except for Jake. "But you don't have to do that. I mean, I'm already heading over there and I'm sure Jake wouldn't want to trouble you--" She looked pointedly at Jake, signaling him to agree with her.
Jake opened his mouth to speak when Jess placed a hand on his bare arm prodding him to look down at her. "As I keep saying, it's no trouble. And it would make more sense for you to catch a ride with me instead of wasting time at work you could spend more time doing... fun things," she suggested.
He cocked his head to the side, "Yeah, that-that's logical. You know, Diane, I think I'll-- Diane?" He looked back up to see an empty doorway. "Where-- What'd I say?"
Jess picked up her coffee and brought it to her lips. Shrugging as if mystified, she hid a triumphant smirk behind the rim of the cup.
"Diane? Um... Diane? Di-- ow! Diane!"
Jake looked down. "I might not be the doctor here, but I'm pretty sure that no part of my body should be purple."
"What?" Diane shook her head, dazed. She followed his gaze down to his arm which was turning a shade of violet below the cuff of the blood pressure device. "Oh. Sorry," she mumbled with no trace of apology in her voice, "I'll have to measure again."
He frowned. "Is there something bothering you?"
The loud hiss of escaping air seemed to answer him as she pressed the air release valve. "No, I'm fine," she replied.
"Well, it's just that you seem a little... tense."
"Nope," she said, succinctly pronouncing each consonant and vowel.
Jake swallowed as he watched her rhythmically clench the inflation bulb with more force than necessary. "Oh, o-okay. Well, um, I'm taking Jess out for dinner tonight; just wondering if you'd like to come..."
Diane raised an eyebrow sardonically, "Ah, no thanks."
"Diane, what is going on?" he suddenly snapped, getting sick of the charade she had been putting up all day. "Was it something I said this morning, because I don't understand why you're--"
"No, Jake," she sighed irritated. "It's just been a really... stressful week for me lately."
"Yeah, I've noticed. Mind clueing me in on what's been going on 'cause you're starting to stress me out as well."
Diane focused her eyes on the inflation bulb she was pumping, "Well, yeah, actually I do mind."
"Aw, c'mon Diane," Jake cocked his head to the side. "Wait... does this concern Jess?"
"She's my sister. Of course I'm concerned."
"Why?" he questioned, pained that she thought so lowly of him. "You know what kind of guy I am. You know I'd never hurt a girl--"
She looked up, not hiding the similar pain that crossed her face at his misinterpretation. "Of course I know that."
"Then what is it?"
Diane shrugged, "Jess means well and I love her, but truthfully? She goes through guys like a person tries out clothes." She turned her attention back to her task. "I know what she's like, Jake. And I do know what kind of guy you are, too. That's why I'm concerned... It's just that she's not the one I'm concerned about."
"Are you saying I can't protect myself?"
"Well, actually yeah, that is what I'm saying. You may be able to protect yourself physically with the nanites and all, but you don't seem that good at protecting yourself emotionally. It's like the thing with Theresa, again. You only knew her for what-- three days? A week at most? And yet, she left you in a wreck. I mean, you're a smart guy, but... who's to say it couldn't happen again?"
Jake scoffed at her words. He admitted to himself that what she said might hold a small grain of truth, but he willingly let his male ego take over. "What, are you a shrink now?"
"No, Jake," she retorted rolling her eyes as she practically squeezed the inflation bulb to death. "I'm just stating an observation that you can't seem to see. Or trying not to see, for that matter."
A severe headache started to muddle its way into Jake's brain as he tried to add up what was going on. If he didn't know any better, he would've said she was jealous. But he did know better, and the idea of Diane being jealous didn't make any sense. Besides, he had practically asked her out and she was the one who shot him down. That's what puzzled him; she had shot him down but this whole conversation seemed like she was hinting...
He pushed the thought away, getting annoyed with the whole situation in general. "Well, what am I missing, then?" Jake demanded holding up his free hand in a helpless gesture.
"I dunno. It's just--" Diane's lips tightened. "You say you worry about people not being able to get to know the real you, but here you are getting involved with another person that in the end you won't be able to be truthful with. I mean, how many slaps in the face is it going to take for you to realize how hypocritical you're acting right now."
He sputtered in disbelief as he allowed the frustration he had bottled up to explode, "What is this?! I-I thought you'd be happy for me! I mean, I finally get with a girl who's pretty and smart and... and nice and genuinely interested in me without her having some ulterior motive. What's wrong with that? If you can show me someone else who fits that description better then point her out to me because I'm not seeing her."
Diane pressed the valve again, letting the same harsh hissing of air interrupt their conversation. Pulling off the cuff, she kept her head down while scribbling the results on her clipboard. "I think we're done here," she declared calmly, perhaps a little too calmly for Jake's liking.
He grabbed her arm, prodding Diane to look at him. "No, we're not," Jake asserted. He was tired of guessing and wondering; all he wanted was a straight answer. "Tell me what you want."
"I just want to be co-workers."
Jake blinked, stunned. That definitely wasn't the response he had been expecting; although he wasn't quite sure what response he was expecting in the first place. "You-you want... what?"
She started fidgeting with her necklace. "I just think... I think it'd be a lot easier for both of us if we didn't hang out with each other as much. Y'know, like outside of work and stuff. I think it'd be better if we just kept it professional from now on before there's any... complications."
"Um, okay... If-if that's what you really want."
"Yeah," she played with the pendant more vigorously. "Yeah, that's what I want."
"Alright... but that's not what I--"
His sentence was cut off when Kyle knocked on the glass wall making both of them jump. Jake quickly let go of Diane's arm as the other agent opened the door and stuck his head in.
"Are you guys done?" Kyle inquired.
Jake slid off the examination table and met Diane's gaze. When she turned away to her clipboard, he nodded, "Yeah, I think we are." Grabbing his jacket, he followed Kyle out the door never looking back to see his doctor's form sag heavily against the table.
He took each step up the stairs with deliberate pauses. Grasping the keys in his pocket, Jake let the sharp metal bite into the palm of his hand.
Going to work had been excruciating lately. It wasn't the twelve hours of analyzing code and routing numbers that was bothering him but rather the incident in the lab two days ago. He felt angry, saddened, upset... but more than anything he felt longing. He missed her. Physically, Diane was there in the lab monitoring him just like always, but his friend wasn't there. The usual jokes and good-humored banter that they used to share had been shredded and reduced to generic small talk between patient and doctor.
"Co-workers," Jake uttered as he slowly walked down the hallway, "I just don't get it."
He would've understood if she had said she just wanted to be friends, but co-workers? He didn't like not being able to break through the new co-worker social demeanor that she placed up, but if that's what she wanted, well then... he just wanted her to be happy. Although, what she wanted specifically was definitely not what he wanted. He wanted to hear her voice on the phone for three hours during their daily bedtime phone calls like he used to. And to walk with her through the parking garage while pointing out to each other which nice cars they lusted after. And to keep having her hang out at his place for games night while getting his ass kicked in every round. He didn't just want all that, Jake realized. He needed all that. It never occurred to him how much he came to rely on just those little moments of normal and everyday life bliss that he had had when he was with her... Those moments that he'll never have again.
Jake stopped and thumbed through the keys that dangled from the key ring. She missed movie night yesterday. If it wasn't for Jess staying at his apartment, he probably would have sat on his couch flipping through late night infomercials while wallowing in self-pity. But instead, he had watched the movie with Jess. It was actually really fun watching the film with her, although her incessant small comments during key moments in the movie did get a little annoying; Diane never did that. Or the way Jess slouched deep down on the couch with her chin resting on her collarbone almost as if bored; Diane always sat up with one leg tucked under her or had both crossed Indian-style, he reflected. And when Diane drank beer, she'd tend to swirl the bottle three times before taking a sip. Jess, on the other hand would... Jake frowned, he didn't really pay attention to how Jess drank her beer but he was pretty sure it wasn't like that.
Slipping the key into the lock, he opened the door. Overall, though, last night with Jess was pretty good. It seemed... almost normal for some reason. As if nothing had changed and that he was actually with--
Jake's jaw dropped as he took a few steps into the apartment. Grinning like a lunatic, he absorbed the sight of a slightly exposed back covered by a simple black dress and dark brown hair that was pinned up in a manner that tugged at his memory.
"Wha-Why are you..." Jake rubbed his eyes in disbelief. "I thought you said..."
"How do I look?" Jess asked, turning around.
Jake blinked, his grin slipping a fraction. Swallowing, he regained a pleasant expression. "You look... beautiful."
She smiled, handing him a coat and tie. "You ready?"
He let Jess slip her arm around his. "Yeah, I think I am."
It wasn't what she had wanted. It wasn't what she had wanted by far.
Sitting in front of her laptop, Diane tapped away at the keys unaware of what she was writing. The idea of keeping it professional seemed logical when it came out of her mouth. She had listed out the pros and cons in her mind, trying to account for every variable and outcome as if it was one of her experiments. All the results affirmed that pulling away was the best solution. It meant the threat from higher-ups concerning interoffice relationships would be gone. That the worry that kept her up late at night whenever Jake was out on a mission and then the strong urge to hug him when he returned just to make sure he was alive would fade away. That her own rapid pulse and erratic breathing she'd sometimes experience while she was supposed to be measuring his vitals would dissipate. And, most importantly, that the wide spectrum of emotions that exhausted her lately would subside, finally giving her the rest that she so fervently desired.
So she lied. She lied to Jake and to herself. In theory, acting indifferent seemed like an easy thing, but from the moment he walked out of the lab two days ago, it finally dawned on her that the idea wasn't going to be as painless as she thought.
Jake and her sister were going out for dinner again. A "date," Jake had confessed during their new, impersonal patient-doctor chatter. Their third date, apparently. Diane pursed her lips in contemplation. She had observed Jess's normal operation when it came to guys all throughout high school and beyond. First, it would be the seductress, then the helpless victim, and then finally she'd have the poor guy wrapped around her finger so tightly that it was inevitable that the two would--
"Diane?" Fran waved her hand in front of Diane's face. "It's ten o'clock. Aren't you going home yet?"
"Uh, yeah. Just trying to tie up some loose ends."
Fran looked over her shoulder at the screen. "I think it'd be easier to tie up those loose ends if you actually had a program running."
"What?" She looked at the screen to see the blue, stark desktop. "Oh."
"You better not be planning to stay until twelve like last night."
"It wasn't twelve," Diane insisted. "More like... eleven-thirty."
Shaking her head, Fran hung up her lab coat. "Will you and Jake just kiss and make up already? Just being around you two while you guys congenially yet miserably avoid each other is starting to make me depressed too."
Diane knew her assistant was joking, but she still allowed her mind to drift a moment toward that specific method of reconciliation. "I'll be out of here in fifteen minutes," she mumbled, changing the subject.
"No you won't." Fran raised an eyebrow knowingly. "It'll be like fifteen minutes... plus two hours."
"You know me too well."
She nodded, opening the glass door to leave. "Call him, Diane. Fix whatever needs fixing. If not for your guys' sake or mine, then... think of the mice's welfare."
Diane couldn't help but giggle. "I promise, if things go really bad between me and Jake, we'll agree on joint-custody."
"Good. I'll see you tomorrow," Fran said with a smile, glad to see her out of her glum mood for the first time this week. Walking out of the lab, she pointed at Diane with her voice muffled by the glass. "And go home!"
Diane waved dismissingly and turned back to her laptop. She stared at the screen for another hour before finally getting up to switch her lab coat for her own jacket. Searching for her car keys, she pulled from her pocket a palm-sized rectangular object and stared at it unsure of what to do.
To celebrate Jake getting his crap of a car repaired that afternoon, he decided to take Jess out to a movie and the most expensive restaurant he could afford.
"Jake, tonight was wonderful," Jess commented quietly, deeply touched. "Nobody... nobody's ever treated me to this nice of a date before."
"Hey, I enjoyed it." He grinned, regretfully looking down at his plate. "I figure a person hasn't really experienced life until they've spent forty bucks on one lettuce leaf and what I think is a crab cake..." Jake poked at the weird-shaped mush with a hesitant expression. "Whatever it is, I think it might still be alive. Maybe we could give it its freedom on the way back to the apartment."
She giggled and then tilted her head to the side wondering why he was giving her a thoughtful look. "What?"
"I dunno, it's just... you laughed a lot like your sister just then."
"Really." Jess blinked, unsure of how to reply to that. "That's something I'm definitely not told everyday."
Jake set his fork down. "I'm sorry, that comment just came out of nowhere."
"No, that's okay," she assured, patting his hand. "I'm just wondering why all of a sudden you're thinking about--"
"My car!" he exclaimed looking past her at the window. Jumping up from his seat while nearly tripping in the process, Jake put his hands up apologetically. "I'm sorry, I gotta-- my car-- I-I'll be right back. I'm so sorry--"
Jess looked over her shoulder to see a police officer circling around Jake's car with a notepad in hand. Turning back to him, she smiled understandingly. "Just go, Jake."
He nodded appreciatively and rushed away almost knocking over a waiter in the process. Jess stifled a laugh as she heard Jake's repeated apologies as he bumped into almost every person in his path. It was then that that a noise sounded from Jake's jacket that hung from his chair. Searching through the pockets, Jess pulled out the ringing cell phone and flipped it open. She put it to her ear about to say "hello" when the caller immediately started talking.
"Listen, before you say anything, I just wanted to say I'm sorry. I-- there's been so many things going through my head lately and... Its just things are really complicated between us and everything's gotten out of hand. I-I didn't mean what I said in the lab that one day. I mean, I meant some of those things but not the last part. I don't want to be just co-workers, Jake, or even just casual friends. I want... I don't know what I want... Will you say something?"
Jess leaned back in her chair, absorbing all that had been said. "Jake can't come to the phone right now, but if you leave a message I'll make sure to... Well, I'm pretty sure I won't remember to tell him."
A long deadly silence followed at which a trembling voice uttered, "Jessica?"
"Hi, Diane. Busy with all your exciting plans tonight?"
"Jake? Jake's... busy at the moment."
"Yeah..." Jess pivoted to look out of the window where she viewed Jake pleading with the police officer. "Uh, let's just say something's... up," she said sadistically, making sure to pronounce the "p" with a popping noise. "Do you want to talk to him? I'm sure I could get him to stop doing what he's doing right now. Although..." She looked back outside to see him following the officer who was walking away, "he's proving to be very persistent and... vigorous at the moment. But I could still try to--"
"No. No, no that's, um, that's okay. I'll just... You don't need to tell him I--"
"Don't worry. I won't."
"Yeah. Uh, h-how are you?"
Jess found herself entertained by Diane's feeble attempt to act nonchalant. "Never better. Jake sure is a fun guy to be around."
"Hmm. Yeah. I guess I'll just talk to him some other time."
Before Jess could reply, the shrill dial tone blasted in her ear. Satisfied, she snapped the phone shut as Jake came back to the table with a yellow piece of paper crumpled in his fist.
"A hundred bucks, can you believe it? I swear that fire hydrant wasn't there when we arrived," he fumed, smoothing out the ticket.
She licked her lips, "I'm sorry. I bet these past few days have been really rough." Getting up, Jess gently pulled Jake from his chair and grabbed his coat. "Why don't we go back to your place and see if I can repay that debt I owe you, hmm?"
Jake's head shot up, his fury over the ticket abruptly forgotten. "Oh. Uh, yeah. Sure."
Wrapping her arm around his, Jess smirked as she slipped the cell phone back into his pocket and led them both out of the restaurant.
As soon as the two entered his apartment, Jess unpinned her hair and sauntered up to Jake. Her face was an inch away from his when random thoughts came cycling through his mind. He gazed down into her dark brown eyes that seemed familiar but was missing... something. Running a hand through her hair, Jake was disappointed to find that it lacked a certain volume he had hoped to experience. His senses told him she felt wonderful in his arms, but the only word he could use to truthfully describe it was "different." And the jasmine scent that permeated from her skin was pleasant especially since it reminded him of...
"What's wrong?" Jess murmured moving a hand up to the back of his neck.
"N-Nothing. Just thinking," Jake answered trying to focus back on Jess, but all he could concentrate on was the absence of small metal objects that he had expected to feel when she stroked her fingers against his skin.
Pulling them both into the bedroom, she smiled roguishly as her lips barely brushed against his. "Well, let's just see if we can take you're mind off things, shall we?"
Diane sat on the couch reading the same sentence for the last half hour. Throwing the book aside, she let her eyes wander around the room and was eventually drawn to the purse that sat beside her on the couch. Diane chewed her lip as she became mesmerized by the JMD that was slightly poking out of it.
"No," shaking her head and waving her hands. "No, I'm not going to do that. I don't care. It means nothing to me. Absolutely none of my business."
She picked the novel back up and buried her nose into it, determined to read. It took her less than a minute, however, to find herself glancing sideways at the small gadget again.
Diane jumped from her seat and paced back and forth in front of the couch, each time with her hand swinging very close to her purse. Finally, on one of the passes her hand made contact and sent the bag tumbling to the floor.
"Oops, geez how clumsy of me," Diane acted surprised as she knelt down. "Guess now I have to pick it up."
She stuffed her keys and other items back into her bag reaching for the JMD last. Initially, she meant to take only a quick peek but ended up making a full analysis.
"Oh God, don't tell me they're..." she breathed out with a mixture of disgust and disappointment. She watched the vitals continue to surge violently for a moment longer before letting the device slip to the floor with a dull thud. Diane stood silent, a resigned expression on her face when a knock came from the door.
Wondering if it could be who she thought it was, she answered it to find a smiling, brown-haired male standing in front of her.
"Tony's Pizzeria," the teenager piped, holding out a pizza box to her.
Feeling her lips graze his, Jake suddenly backed away causing him to trip over one of Jess's bags sending him to the floor.
"Jake are you okay?" she asked shocked.
He rubbed the back of his head and turned to glare at the chest drawers that he had hit. "Yeah I'm fine, Diane. Just bumped my head on--"
"What did you say?"
"Did you just-- Oh my God."
"I don't believe this."
Jake continued to sit on the floor watching in confusion as Jess started to pack her bags. "Wha-What did I say? I don't understand."
She shook her head with a fusion of amusement and rage blatantly written across her face. "Jake, do you really like me?"
"Yeah," Jake blinked. "Of course I do, why--"
"Or do you really like the fact that I look a lot like my sister?"
He froze. "I-I don't know what you're talking about."
"I think you do," she paused with her eyes penetrating into his. When he ducked his head, she sighed and resumed her packing. "Maybe you can tell me this. Why were you willing to accept something that only resembles what you really want when you could've had the real deal all this time?"
His breath caught in his chest, "I'm not following."
"I really like you, Jake. I think you're the nicest, most genuine guy I've ever met. And I don't think I've ever envied Diane more than I do now." Zipping up the luggage and slinging it over her shoulder, she walked over to Jake and asked solemnly, "Are you going to answer my question?"
Still in a daze, he stared upwards at the young woman who towered above him. Something in her present demeanor demanded that he be honest with her and with himself. "Diane doesn't like me in that way. She sees me only as a friend."
"Oh really. You just keep telling yourself that and eventually it will be true," she warned, raising an eyebrow. Before Jake could retaliate she explained, "Since we're talking about Diane here, I wouldn't call threatening physical injury on your own sister even if you can't stand her guts as something you would do for a friend." Jess folded her arms, "And considering that I could easily kick her ass if she attempted to do such a thing, Diane putting herself in bodily harm for you pretty much cements the issue for me."
Jake racked his brain trying to absorb all the information being thrown at him. Was that what he had been doing? Substituting Diane with her sister because he... Jake smacked his forehead with his hand as the truth dawned on him. All the signs he had missed or read wrong started to become clearer. "I'm an idiot," he muttered reflecting on the argument he had at work two days ago.
Jess smiled wryly and walked to the doorway. "Goodbye, Jake. I'll see you at the Hughes' family gatherings if I ever drag myself to one."
He blushed at her presumption and then grew serious. "You should work things out at home. Your family really loves you, Jess. And so does Diane."
"I know," she admitted soberly. "And she really loves you, too." Nodding farewell, Jess left the room leaving him to listen to her fading footsteps echo in his ears.
She sighed and went to get her purse. After Diane paid the delivery guy and dropped the box on the table, she was shutting the door when a hand shot out from the other side and halted its progress.
"Listen buddy, I don't think you were that quick enough to deserve a bigger tip," she complained before looking up to see a brown-haired male again. Moving forward to put an arm around his shoulder, she bent down to peruse his face. "What's wrong Jake?"
Doubled over and leaning his arms on his knees, Jake skimmed over her worry-stricken expression and panted, "Can I... have some... water?"
"Yeah sure. Come inside."
Jake straightened and clutched his side while letting Diane urge him forward, her hand on his back. With his eyes following her into the kitchen, he guzzled down the glass of water she brought back to him.
"What's wrong? I-I mean, why are you here? I thought you were--"she reddened and glanced briefly at the JMD on the floor.
"My car wouldn't start again. I think it has a vendetta out for me," he smiled feebly trying to make light of the situation. "So I ended up having to run all the way down here. Y-You know I think I did enough running to cover for tomorrow's morning tests so I'm thinking maybe we could probably skip--"
"Jake," her brow furrowed letting him know she wouldn't be sidetracked that easily, "why did you run over here in the first place?"
"Uh, because I forgot there was an invention called the phone?"
She stared at him, not amused. "I thought you were with Jessica."
Jess's words came back to his mind making him blush, which was misinterpreted by Diane. He saw her shift away slightly, almost shrinking into herself. Alarmed, he stepped closer to her, "Not much happened. Not much could happen. I kept getting distracted and so she just left."
"Left? Is she okay?" Diane asked, concern suddenly overriding all the other sentiments coursing through her at the moment.
"Yeah, she'll be fine. She seemed like she's really going to consider patching up things between her and your folks; she just needs time."
"Good. That's good," she let out a breath while rubbing her forehead. Stopping in mid-action, she frowned, "What'd you mean by distracted?"
"Well, she didnt... feel right."
Diane crossed her arms starting to feel sick to her stomach, "Feel right?"
"Yeah. N-No," Jake quickly contradicted himself when he saw the look that had spread across her face. "No, not feel as in feel but feel as in... feel."
She blinked. "Are you speaking English right now 'cause Im not understanding."
Starting to pace across the room, he tapped his fingertips together in front of his mouth trying to search for the right words. "It's like... when I'd look at her or get close to her... You know, I'd-I'd see... you."
"So you're saying you couldn't get 'close' to her because I look like her," Diane surmised, feeling relieved they hadn't been what she thought they'd been doing but also extremely insulted that he found the concept of getting intimate with Jess ruined by the thought of getting intimate with his curly-haired doctor.
"Yes, exactly," he concurred, not aware she was misunderstanding his meaning.
She adjusted her glasses, "Well, I'm sorry Jake but my sister and I do share the same genes, so if it bothers or sickens you that much to imagine getting 'close' to me while you're in the middle of trying to get 'close' to her... well I-I dunno what to tell ya." Attempting to cover the hurt that was piercing her at that moment, she laughed jokingly, "I know we're friends and all and I'd do anything to make you happy but plastic surgery? Yeah sorry, kinda pushing it there. And I mean, on my salary? I think by the time I can afford it I'll be so old and wrinkly you won't have to worry about seeing me when you're, uh... kissing Jessica or whatever."
Two semi trucks couldn't knock the wind out of him as much as her words had. Viewing the brave smile Diane had put on as she self-deprecated herself almost tore his heart out. "No, no, no. You-You got it all wrong," he insisted walking back up to her. "It's not that you look like her but that she looks like you."
"Uh, Jake? Not speaking English again."
"I... it's-it's like... ugh," Jake clenched his fists frustrated at his lack of being able to articulate his feelings in the way he wanted to. Spying the pizza box on the table, Kevin's analogy from their phone conversation popped into his head. "It's... it's like you're a pizza. I mean, I've always cared about the kinds of toppings you have but it's more than that now. I-I really care about your toppings, Diane."
A long pause followed as her whole face scrunched up in total mystification, "What?"
He covered his eyes in humiliation as he realized what he had just said. "You know, I'm actually starting to believe that English isn't my first language," he uttered causing both of them to chuckle.
Diane smiled, shaking her head at the absurdity of the current situation, "What are we doing? We usually tell each other everything with no problems. So, Jake, just tell me whatever you're trying not to tell me."
Jake nodded, willing the tension that tugged at him to slip away. She was right; this doesn't have to be awkward between them, it shouldn't be. Moving closer, he noticed the brown eyes that were looking up at him contained what he felt was missing from the other pair he had gazed into earlier that evening. He still wasn't sure what that something was but whatever it might be, it was in these warm depths and was causing his insides to melt a bit. Reaching out a hand, he tentatively ran his fingers through her hair and was pleased to find that that, too, remedied the disappointment he had felt when he was with Jess.
"I guess what I was trying to say was that I couldn't get close to Jess not because she looked like you but because she wasn't you," Jake professed in a low voice. "You know, while Jess and I were on our date she had her hair up and was wearing this pretty black dress and it was just so easy..."
Diane was having a hard time processing all the sensations ranging from his words to his fingers that were tangled in her hair, tingling her scalp. "Easy to what?"
"It... It was just so easy for me to pretend it was you," he said amazed at his revelation. "Like it was me and you on one of those dinners you kept turning down a couple days ago. And so when Jess and I went back to my apartment and she pulled me towards her like Ive dreamt you wou-- uh," his eyes widened, suddenly becoming aware that he was thinking out loud. "Wha-What I'm trying to say is that that's when I started to realize that she wasn't you."
Blood rushing to her cheeks, Diane's own eyes widened in response. She blinked rapidly, fighting to calm down the jolt of pleasure that twisted in the pit of her stomach. "It took you that long to tell us apart? Be-Because thats pretty sad considering the height differential, for one thing. If it helps, just remember: Diane equals bespectacled and vertically challenged older sister," she tried chuckling unperturbed, but only to have her voice waver up an octave at mid-laugh.
Jake didn't even bother to notice her smart-aleck remarks as he leaned in closer and caught the scent of jasmine that had been resurfacing in his mind lately. "I used her," he confessed, ashamed. "I used her because deep down I really wanted..." Jake's eyes roamed over Diane's face, "I wanted this. Am I making any sense now?"
"Yeah, I think that was comprehensible," she squeaked. Resting both her hands on the back of his neck, Diane trembled self-consciously when he started to laugh. "What?! I swear I didn't have any of that pizza and I had just brushed my teeth before you showed up," she assured seriously.
Jake felt another chuckle bubble its way up his throat. Her sudden concern over bad breath during what he feared was going to be an awkward romantic moment between friends put him at ease. "No, it's not that. It's just..." he smiled, slightly moving his neck so that he intensified the touch of metal and human warmth on his skin, "that is just one big-ass, funky ring you always wear."
She snorted, "Well it's my--" Diane's sentence froze when her lips became preoccupied with more important matters.
Jake watched Diane's eyes grow wide behind her glasses and then flutter shut as he captured her mouth with his. Moving his lips slowly upon hers, a low groan of pleasure rumbled in Jake's chest when she pulled herself against him to deepen the kiss.
Never in his life had he imagined he would experience one of those mind-blowing, fireworks-exploding type kisses writers always described in those sickeningly sappy romance novels. He was even pretty sure that that kind of thing never existed in the first place. If it did, then he had assumed he would have felt those feelings when Sarah kissed him. But he hadn't. A girl he had spent years of his life fantasizing about kissing but when it finally happened, the anticipated mind-blowing turned out to be nothing but a small puff.
So, here, as he stood tightly enveloped in Diane's hold with her feather-light breath tickling against his cheek, Jake's heart nearly burst at the realization that the mind-blowing experience had been standing in front of him all this time. An experience that had been hiding behind an ever-present lab coat and JMD while waiting patiently for him to figure out the puzzle.
Wrapping his arms around his new discovery, Jake started a deeper exploration into the depths of Diane's mouth. However, having Diane abruptly shove him away caused Jake to end his journey and return to reality.
"Wha?" he whined softly, hating the new space of air between them.
"I...We can't do this," Shaking her head, Diane let her hands slip away. "Jake, you're--"
"No. No, don't say anything. I knew something had to go wrong," he groaned, wondering why this rejection out of the literally thousands of rejections he had experienced was completely shattering him. "I know the line already. I understand. 'Jake, you're a great guy but I don't want to mess up our friendship.' Don't worry, Diane, I really do understand. I'm just hoping we can forget this whole incident ever happened, okay?" Forcing a smile, he started towards the door. "So, I'll see you tomorrow. Really hoping we can skip the treadmill thing 'cause, you know, any more running and I think I'll wear out these new shoes. And on my salary? Yeah, shoes are just as bad as plastic surgery."
Seeing Jake walk away, she scuttled past him to block the door, "No. No, no, no. I'm not going to let you do this."
"But these are really nice shoes."
"Not that. The line you said; that wasn't what I was going to say at all."
"No." She said in a rush, "Jake, you're important to me. Really important. And I do want this. You don't know how much I really, really want this. But this isn't like the movies; it's not like we kiss and as the credits roll everything's hunky-dory."
He questioned, amused at the corny phrase, "Hunky-dory?"
"You know what I mean," Diane scowled good-naturedly. "What I'm saying is that I've been thinking a lot these past few days. And if we were to take it to the next level, we'd have to deal with the workplace thing and then the friendship thing, but most importantly..." her voice slightly cracked, "if-if something was to happen to you... if I tried to save you but it didn't work... I just don't know how I'd handle that. I don't know if I want to put myself in a situation where I'd have to handle that."
"So... are you saying you want to go back to how things were before?"
She shook her head, "I don't want to lose what happened tonight, Jake. I'm not going to back away from this... But I think we need to take it slow and figure out how we're going to cope with all these things before taking the next step."
"Okay, I can do that... We can do that." Jake declared. The two sighed, relieved and exhilarated at their new relationship and plan of action. "This whole nanite thing kinda sucks sometimes, huh," he commented.
Diane just stood beaming. "Yeah, it does. So, uh, you wanna stay and have some pizza in a not-dating-but-more-than-a-friendship kind of way?"
"Um, I know I said I really care about your toppings but these two I think I could do without." Flipping open the cardboard box, Jake sneered at the sight of anchovies and artichokes. "I saw while on my little jog over here, a cafe nearby that's open. How 'bout we go there considering weve got work in a couple hours and it's kinda too early to go to sleep."
She giggled looking at the clock that read 12:05 AM. "Yeah, it is pretty early. Coffee sounds good." Shrugging on her jacket, she followed Jake out into the hallway.
"Heh. I guess the smart, dependable types suit me better, dont you think?" he mused, looking down at the woman walking beside him.
Even though she knew what he said was meant to be complement, the label of always being the ever-timid sister overwhelmingly enraged her at that very moment. Feeling the emotional roller-coaster ride shed been on the whole week unexpectedly snap inside, Diane grabbed Jakes shirtfront and roughly jerked him towards her.
Bewildered, his heart raced in amazement at the brazen treatment that his doctor was giving him. The warm breath that fanned his face was even more magnified by the nanites and sent surges threatening to override his system. Jake licked his lips in anticipation only to be disappointed to watch the scorching light in her eyes that had appeared without warning just as quickly fade away.
"Um, I-I guess it runs in the family," Diane apologized, letting go of his shirt as her whole face flushed. Lowering her head with a shy smile, she resumed walking down the hall, "Are you coming?"
Unable to keep from grinning at his newfound knowledge, he realized she was waiting for him. "You bet," Jake replied, running to catch up.